A Place Called Lost

I must save time you say, and then it will be done.

At last there will be time to do those things

which till now you made no time for:

the gifts unwrapped, the moments missed,

the hours unscheduled, the minutes stolen

by the long packaging and delivery of time.

In the measured management of days,

the retail marketing of lives, no time is ever lost.

 

Yet on each yearly count we feel short-changed,

unassuaged by fear of getting lost,

or maybe finding what we fear to find,

as if with a single lapse, one idle hour,

we might lose all we have presumed to gain.

Why not, then, invite the unfamiliar? 

You might come upon a place called lost,

arriving there as if to trespass on yourself,

treading warily, yet vigilant, to find perhaps

an unexpected clearing filled with light

and to feel a silence grown rich with loss.

 

Today looking out across the bay it felt like grief

to write you of the littered surface of the sea,

of creatures caught by drifts of plastic waste,

all the living dead’s trash washed up at noon.

But then the ebb tide’s long drawn retreat

revealed such complex patterns in the sand,

as if sheet music score of ocean’s symphony,

where gratitude then gifted me this moon shell

burnished by delicate colours of the sea,

whose time speaks aeons not hours or days.

 

To think of you and the train that brought me here,

through regions barely habitable by night,

by day passing rows of tin-roofed shacks

lives of the deepest poverty whose fates

are consequent upon time’s brute calculus,

human collateral now callously dubbed ‘surplus’,

abandoned in the margins of the railroad tracks.

 

And who decreed this rule by brute efficient cause,

to make a world conform to time’s warped image?

We, who have forgotten who we really are,

dream transhuman dreams of immortality

who know not even whence we truly came,

except as Darwin’s primate deprived of forests,

who in competition’s futile tragic game

convert descent into triumphal mad ascendance.

 

Last night I dreamt from Hope’s forsaken ruins

there came the faintest rustling sound,

that then became an electronic shriek of pain:

some exultant technocrat’s “Eureka!”

Within his grasp that dream to banish longing,

the unreachable beyond of dusty books.

Converting words to numbers, qualities to quantity,

he summoned an abstract shadow world,

and smiling bowed down to a silicon god

his immortal mind now digitized upon a cloud.

 

And so I wake to write of useless things,

moments that arise as worlds within a world,

this body’s language whose given nature

transforms all seen and tangible appearance

into this hive of intimacy invisible within,

as if mind’s honeycomb were all creation’s gift,

of myriad selves whose destiny transfigured

might one day become this earth’s true refuge.*

 

How should we listen then? To hear the soul in time

is to rest at ease amidst unmeasured hours,

to observe the land in a slant of golden sun,

the rain-washed rocks, moon-driven surf,

the fleeting breath of meteor showers,

or trackless wastes, sunbaked wildernesses,

mountains with hidden water springs:

all useless things backlit by luminous mind:

remembrances held fast for what we yet might be,

of infinite possible worlds hidden there

beyond reach of time’s thought-bound finitudes.

 

In this morning’s billowing sea wind

that techno-dream dissolves to empty sky,

a world of qualities now permeates the air

from tropic fragrances to northern pines,

east winds spiced by fulgent deserts,

the west’s bright flowering meadows,

a truth known as you breathe it away,

of sentient life-worlds endlessly unfolding,

mind and world co-arising through space and time,

while here in the warm palm of my hand,

whose lines inscribe a life intractably sublime

upon the mute and tender softness of its skin,

rests this intricate moon shell as frail as goodness,

whose perfect spiraling shape winds inwardly

to the apex of that single pearl-like eye

that holds me in love’s boundless silent gaze

to trust the stilled heart’s tranquil roseate cave

long formed by ocean tides, candescent light of suns.

 

©David Beatty

 

Note

 '…this earth’s refuge.* 

 A nod to the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s ‘bees of the invisible.’

 

©David Beatty 2021